5 misconceptions about incontinence

Incontinence is hard to talk about — many women choose to suffer in silence, finding it too embarrassing to talk about it with friends, family or a doctor. The truth is urinary incontinence affects millions of women — you’re not alone and there are several treatment options available to significantly improve quality of life.

To educate women about this prevalent issue and the many ways to address it, here’s a list of five common misconceptions about incontinence:

There’s nothing I can do about it. That is simply not true. Urinary incontinence affects millions of women, and can range from slightly bothersome to completely debilitating. No matter the severity or type of your incontinence, there are many ways you can treat the problem and regain control of your pelvic health. Treatments range from behavioral modifications, to pelvic floor physical therapy and Kegel exercises, medications, vaginal inserts, injections, and surgery, in the most persistent cases.

I’m the only one going through this. Urinary incontinence is more common than you might expect. In fact, stress urinary incontinence, the most prevalent form of incontinence among women, affects an estimated 13 million adult women in the U.S. You’re not alone, and there are solutions.

It’s too embarrassing to talk about with anyone. While it may be awkward to discuss incontinence with friends and even family, your doctor’s office is a safe and judgment-free place to discuss these issues. If left untreated and negatively impacting your quality of life, incontinence can cause social isolation, withdrawal from intimate relationships, as well as sadness and depression. It is important to share your incontinence concerns with your doctor, and work together to develop a treatment plan that is right for you.

It’s just part of being a woman. Incontinence is not a disease, it’s a medical problem, and while incontinence is more common in women than men, that does not mean it has to be a prevalent or cumbersome part of your life. Incontinence can be caused by weak bladder muscles, overactive bladder muscles, or other physical problems or changes. Pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause may also contribute to incontinence. There are a host of treatment options designed specifically for women, like pelvic floor strengthening, that can help make tremendous strides in addressing the issue.

I just have to live with it. This is perhaps the most common misconception around incontinence. There is no reason to let incontinence define or control your life – your social life, emotional wellbeing, intimate relationships or otherwise. Start by opening up a dialogue with your physician. Then work together to find an improvement plan suited for you and your lifestyle. The biggest thing I want women to understand about incontinence is that it is a manageable and resolvable problem.

Salpi Salibian is director of program development, Hoag Pelvic Health ProgramHoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian, Newport Beach, CA.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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